Michigan congressional Democrats urge Early Head Start expansion in Flint
Washington — Three members of Congress representing Michigan sent a letter Monday to the federal Department of Health and Human Services to request the early childhood education program Head Start be made available to all eligible children in Flint.
Congress recently approved an additional $135 million to expand the Early Head Start program. U.S. Sens. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township and Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township want Flint to be included in the expansion since the city is dealing with fallout from lead contamination of its drinking water.
“The developmental and behavioral problems from lead poisoning will require years of special treatment and wrap-around care for these (lead-exposed) children,” the members wrote to Dr. Blanca Enriquez, director of the Office of Head Start.
“Therefore, we would like to formally request Head Start be made available to every eligible child in the city of Flint as soon as practicable and for at least the duration of a five-year grant period.”
Children are particularly vulnerable to the irreversible effects of lead exposure, which has been associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and other cognitive, behavioral and developmental issues.
The three Democrats noted that recent data collected from children in Flint has shown an increase in blood lead levels above 5 micrograms, indicating that thousands of children in Flint were probably exposed to unsafe lead levels in the drinking water.
“Access to Head Start can assist with mitigating the potential negative health impact of lead exposure in Flint children,” the members wrote. “We would welcome the opportunity to discuss additional options for expanding access to the program.”
Kildee, Peters and Stabenow last week urged Gov. Rick Snyder to request disaster loans through the federal Small Business Administration to assist businesses owners who have been affected by the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint.